Factual Problems In Shaheen Sehbai’s Latest ‘Analysis’

Shaheen SehbaiIn his latest column for The News (Jang Group), Shaheen Sehbai holds a ‘funhouse mirror’ to the president’s speech and comes up with a curious 10-point list of what the president did not say in his address to the National Assembly on Tuesday. Sehbai’s column is purely editorial, though it is labeled as ‘News Analysis’ so that it can appear on the front page and not properly the opinion page. So let us examine Sehbai’s 10-point list as if it were actually ‘analysis’ and judge it’s factual accuracy as such.

1. He has run the country as a one-man show…

President Zardari’s one man show includes highlights of reinstating Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry, also signing 18th Amendment to return more power to the National Assembly, and asking for open discussions and negotiations about difficult issues. He has gone to war with the opposition by consulting them on important issues – how else was the 18th Amendment passed unanimously? And he has isolated the PM by handing over powers to him.

2. His failure to become a respected national leader with credibility, depth and vision has turned Pakistan almost into an intolerant, wayward and undependable pariah state…

Holding Zardari responsible for intolerance in the nation is shameless, especially while Sehbai’s friend Ansar Abbasi is playing the part of religious jurist for the country. Worst, though, saying Asif Zardari “has turned Pakistan almost into an intolerant, wayward and undependable pariah state” is to ignore the decades of support for extremism and militancy by dictators while placing all the blame on those left holding the bag. This is not analysis but is willful ignorance.

3. His style and pettiness in politics has earned him no new friends…internationally he has not been trusted with any aid money. Even the Kerry-Lugar dollars are tied to strings because of lack of trust.

One wonders if the second bit was added on at the insistence of an editor worried about the sheer ridiculousness of claiming that Zardari has been entrusted with no aid money. Yes, Kerry-Lugar bill includes conditionalities, but similar conditionalities were present in most US aid bills since 2001, so it would be a far cry to blame Zardari for this. One might also wonder how badly the president’s “style in pettiness in politics” can be since he has managed to hold together the coalition even during the most trying times. Even PML-N has said it wants to see the government complete its term.

4. His domestic politics is in shambles.

Again, domestic politics is messy, but despite the predictions of devastating storms from ‘journalists’ like Shaheen Sehbai, most have turned out to be storms in teacups, and all so far have resulted in strengthening the democratic process through the recognition of opposition and coalition demands. Far from being in shambles, domestic politics seems to be maturing.

5. …rule of law is being buried day by day and Asif Zardari is leading this mission to demolish the courts.

Again, far from following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Asif Zardari has not made any move to sack the Chief Justice or to ‘demolish the courts’. This hasn’t stopped certain voices in the media from incorrectly predicting an executive-judiciary death match every few months, but neither have these media predictions managed to drive a wedge into the executive-judiciary relationship.

6. His dealings with the establishment are reduced to blackmailing and threats of using the Sindh Card.

The same government that has extended appointments for both COAS and DG ISI is blackmailing the establishment? Actually, this government seems to have one of the healthier relationships with the establishment. The last time we had democratically elected governments under Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (PPP) and Mian Nawaz Sharif (PML-N), both were overthrown by the establishment.

7. His relations with the media are rancorous and based on the policy of buying or bullying.

Shaheen Sehbai has some cheek to write this. Shaheen Sehbai himself has spent the entire duration of the Zardari government pining for the president’s failure and spreading the most ridiculous of rumours about the president. Also, let us recall the false accusations that have come from the media against the government since the past three years. Clearly there is some tension between the government and the media. This is natural. But suggesting that Zardari is the one doing bullying is a bit much.

8. His attempts to survive and avoid his own accountability have just succeeded to the point of delaying the inevitable.

The fact is that Asif Zardari has spent over a decade in prison and no court has convicted him of anything. The fact is also that Swiss prosecutor Daniel Zappelli stated that “he had no evidence to bring Zardari…to trial”.

9. His tall claims of bringing billions of dollars and generating local and foreign investment have evaporated into colourless smoke.

Exports exceeded $2 billion last month and net foreign investment rose 27 percent to $1.23 billion in the first eight months of 2010/11 fiscal year. China signed $30 billion in deals just a few months ago. Economists agree that the economy is improving, though slowly. Shaheen Sehbai is simply wrong on the facts.

10. His favours to his cronies have brought him troubles, infamy and at the end humiliation. But the irony is that these cronies will not stand by him. They will be the first to run, leaving him in the dock.

This is not even a point about the past few years, rather it seems that Shaheen Sehbai cannot help himself but must include some negative prediction in his writings.

This 10-point list of Shaheen Sehbai is not ‘analysis’ it is political attacks only. And these attacks are not even based in reality, but it Shaheen Sehbai’s own willful ignoring of facts. Just because you label something ‘analysis’ does not make it so. This column could have been used to provide analysis of some of the serious issues facing the nation and made some recommendations for how the government and opposition leaders can work together to pass solutions for the good of the country. Instead, readers of The News were presented with yet another political attack consisting of misleading accusations devoid of context and reason.

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